The Gift…

“For it is in giving that we receive.”

Wait,” he said, as he held out his fist, fingers curled around something that must have been terribly small. “Don’t leave yet. I want to give you this.” I extended my palm, and he slowly dropped a tiny piece of metal into it.

****

We were standing outside of the courthouse, after what had been a brutal few hours for me. I was being deposed about the accident that took Angela’s life over two years before … and the five-minute intersecting of two lives that later became the catalyst for The Ride. (see page: What was The Ride if not familiar) Though I’d only returned to New York a few weeks before I was ordered to appear, I was there – reluctantly; I’d gotten a call from the attorney the day after I arrived home, telling me I had no choice in the matter … I had to show up in Ithaca, 70 miles away, the morning of the 31st. Or risk being subpoenaed, or worse. I’d never been involved in a suit before, never been questioned by a cannibalistic lawyer, never been inside a courthouse except for tours. Two hours after I opened the door to the conference room where a single deposition – mine – was to take place, I left feeling exhausted, battered, dirty and angry. I’d simply been a by-stander … a woman on her way to work, riding a bus that will forever remain frozen in time in all of our collective memories. I was there that day and on that bus, at that tragic moment, due to a series of unforeseen coincidences and circumstances. I never should have been … it wasn’t my usual bus. But I was, and because of those fateful events, Angela and I shared a few brief moments of breath … and of spirit … together that forever changed my life. And now, 28 months later, I was sitting in a room being repeatedly questioned about my memory and capability to judge whether Angela suffered those last minutes. As the challenges continued, growing more demeaning with every query, objections flying back and forth, I grew frustrated and short tempered. When it finally ended, all I wanted to do was shut that door and go home. As fast as I could.

But he had other ideas. “He” was Angela’s husband. As he held the door open for me, he was apologetic – he had never wanted me to go through that, he said. “You were there for her, and I know she knew it.” He thanked me again as I began fumbling in my purse, almost forgetting that I’d wanted to give him the photo of Angela I’d carried the last 23 months: A photo that came with me as I explored 26,000 miles of this amazing country, and the photo of the woman whose spirit and heart I felt riding along side of me through every one of those miles. I wanted to give him the photo, and tell him what I did and why … share with him where she had been with me. Though I was shaking, I managed to find it and handed it to him. “I want you to have this. I want you to know what happened after the accident…” He quietly interrupted me and said, “I already know.” Her daughters – who I’d only met briefly at the wake and never saw again – had been following The Ride, he said. I never knew … they never contacted me, but they’d been silently shadowing that most amazing journey of Angela’s and mine.

He and I chatted a few minutes and I turned to go. I was spent from the morning, and wanted to be home. “Wait,” he said urgently, as he held out his fist, fingers curled around something that must have been terribly small. “Don’t leave yet. I want to give you this. I made it … for Angie. I inscribed her name into it. She used to carry it on her keychain …. and I want you to have it.”

I held out my hand, he held his over mine, and as he opened his fist, a tiny piece of metal dropped into my open palm. “And oh, by the way,” he said as I walked away, “Angie loved to travel….”

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